Ask Bonnie Veinot and she’ll tell you all sorts of stories about Torbrook Mines and the mine shafts left by iron ore companies. She grew up there. Every mother’s biggest fear was that their children would fall down one of those shafts.
You could drop a rock down those big, black holes and they would click and clack off the rock walls for ages before they hit bottom. The shafts were so big that in later years people were dumping their garbage down them – including entire pieces of furniture like sofas.
Now Veinot works at Macdonald Museum in Middleton and she’s pulling together information about the community’s mining history that spanned almost 100 years starting in the mid-1800s.
By 1910 the Canada Iron Company’s No. 2 Mine was employing120 men to produce 11,000 tons of iron ore a year. A spur line was built to Nictaux and another to Port Wade where the ore was shipped out.
And that was just one of several mines around which a thriving community grew.
Museum director Janice Slauenwhite said iron ore and blacksmithing just go hand in hand so she’s invited local blacksmiths and farriers to bring their forges and anvils to the front lawn of the museum June 23 from 12 to 4 p.m. where they can show the public how to make anything from nails to horseshoes. She’s calling it ‘Hammer In.’
Inside, Veinot's exhibit, mostly text, will take a look at the history of Torbrook Mines.
“This is our first of several demonstrations on past life skills,” Slauenwhite said. “We’re beginning a series of life skills demonstrations from the past because a lot of young people don’t know what life was like in earlier times. I realize there are farriers today. We need them. There’s blacksmiths today. But it was huge in the past. It was a part of daily life.”
Slauenwhite said there would have been a blacksmith shop in every community and they would have forged everything from square nails to big metal hoops for wagon wheels, the hardware for gates, doors, barns, wagons, and numerous other utilitarian household items.
“We have a display of some metal work in our front lobby,” she said. “We have a hand-forged nail there that was the beginning of what we call the ‘Rusty Nail Collection’ from the 1950s and early ‘60s that the students of Middleton high school put together, and there’s over 600 items in that collection – but it began with a hand-forge nail.”
‘Hammer In’ will be held at Macdonald Museum at 21 School Street in Middleton June 23 starting at noon – rain or shine. It’s a free family event and includes a barbecue.
Anyone who wants to participate as an artisan, or who wishes additional information, can contact the museum at 902-825-6116.